Posts from 09/2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Fragments

♣ To open the day with something of a meta-segue from yesterday's post, I'll be taking care of Kathy and Chris' two kittens starting this afternoon and running through next weekend. I have an open betting pool to see which one Booty will devour in a single bite first: Punchy or Lake. I also have a feeling that the two kittens are probably smarter than Amber and may play tricks on her all day long.

♣ The playing habits of cats are so peculiar. You can wad up a ball of paper and throw it in the living room, and the cats will not particularly care one way or the other. However, as soon as you've turned your back and are not paying any attention, they'll be beating the crap out of that paper ball like it was being inducted into the Don Gato kitty gang. They must get self-conscious about their games and whether or not they're cool.

♣ Humans aren't much better off. No matter what you do for fun, or what your hobbies are, there's always some superficial sap out there who will immediately dismiss your activities as a waste of time, even if they have no firsthand experience. These people tend to have less fun in life, especially if they are mocking board games.

♣ While cleaning out some shelves in the basement last night, I found two board games that I'd made in elementary school and junior high. The first was based on that book, Island of the Blue Dolphins which I'm sure every aspiring student had to read in fifth grade. You ran around on an island collecting supply cards, killing wild dogs and trying to reach the beach to be rescued. The second game was my own version of CLUE with my friends as the main characters and our enemies as the murder victims -- a charmingly innocent game which would have no doubt gotten me kicked out of school Columbine-style had I been a ninth grader today.

♣ I also found a scale map of Polk Elementary School which we had to make in fifth grade as a math/measurement project. I got an A++ for attention to detail, and a D for neatness. That essentially sums up my life from that point forward.

♣ Speaking of my life, today is the first day of September, which means my birthday is just two weeks away. The day is appropriately coloured yellow on the sidebar calendar, since I too, am yellow.

♣ This weekend I will be playing a lot of Warcraft -- after five months of off and on play, Plinky has reached Rank 10: Lieutenant Commander, and I'm only two to three weeks of "too-much-playtime" from getting Rank 11 which was my goal. I don't see how anyone could ever go any higher though (there are 14 ranks total). I'll just barely squeak out 11 while going to work, having a social life, and entertaining an endless chain of young, impressionable female suitors. You would probably have to sacrifice all three of the above for a month or more to reach that top rank, and I just don't think I could live without going to work.

♣ Speaking of suitors, there was an article in the Post yesterday about how all Japanese women want a sensitive New Age South Korean as their soulmate . I guess if things don't pan out here, I always have another country to fall back on!

♣ Have a good weekend!

It's easy to calculate the tip when you use nice big numbers
Nowhere in No Shirts, No Shoes do they mention pants
McFlurries no longer a Hedgehog Deathtrap

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Newsday Tuesday

U.S. Intercepter Missile Hits Target

After eight other tests and over one hundred billion dollars in funding (which would buy 22,935,779,816 two-piece meals from Popeyes), one of the United States' Intercepter missiles completed another successful test this past week, raising its success rate from 50% to 55% and effectively removing the program from the No Missile Left Behind blacklist. Although the naysayers may disagree, the Intercepter program has proven its worth against any enemy missiles meeting the following criteria:

  1. The missile launcher must call ahead seventeen minutes in advance to provide the make, model, and location of the incoming missile.
  2. The missile must be travelling alone with no decoys or tricks.
  3. The missile may not come from any fogbound areas.

Rumours hint that the private sector may be interested in licensing a modified version of an Intercepter to seek and destroy incoming caravans of in-laws and unwelcome relatives during the holiday season, and Google has even stated that they have already eliminated the fogbound requirement with the Google Earth software they used to take pictures of Seattle. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield refused to comment.

Much ado has been made about the refrigerator-sized kill vehicle located on the underside of the Intercepter. Based on stock footage released by the Pentagon, amateur Photoshop enthusiasts recently discovered that the kill vehicle is, indeed, a refrigerator, which makes the enemy missile doubt its self worth by telling emo jokes about bulimia and obesity. In a reversal of sorts, this piece of the Intercepter was actually conceived by a Houston inventor who found no market in his city for a device that keeps people from eating.

When asked to rate the program's effectiveness on a scale of Excellent-Good-Poor, Lieutenant General Henry A. Obering III chose "Good" but added that Excellent was just another one hundred billion dollars away. Obering also said that the next test would more accurately mimick real-world conditions with less predictable targets.

Calls to Daniel Radcliffe went unanswered at press time.

It's not just the created shapes, it's the parts cut out as well
Decline in the number of Cocks
Farmer takes revenge on squatter

tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 10 comments
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Missing in Action

During a season premiere of Alias, Agent Weiss gets shot in the neck and vanishes for several episodes, only to reemerge from the hospital, hale and whole, towards the end of the season. In the ninth season of Friends, Chandler's job gets relocated to Tulsa, which results in him getting about two minutes of screen time each episode (usually making a self-deprecating joke about his job before exiting stage left). At first glance, these seem to be oridnary plot twists, meant to bring a fresh perspective or introduce new drama in an otherwise familiar storyline.

The actuality is rather mundane -- the storyline was changed to accomodate the schedule of the actors involved -- Greg Gunberg got a part on a new pilot (and returned to Alias when it wasn't picked up), and Matthew Perry was rather preoccupied with his latest bout of rehab. Remember Rose from the first season of LOST who was all over the place in the first couple episodes, never to be heard from again until season two? She got a part in a play.

This type of thing happens a lot on TV shows, and often makes me wonder just how much of a storyline is dictated by the writers and how much is subpar because the actress got pregnant or the actor had to spend two months in jail for DUIs. In a show I'm currently watching, one of the main characters up and moved to Chicago for a couple episodes (which also cut out a whole stable of supporting characters). He came back a little while later, and the entire subplot for his move was quietly buried, like a story about Democratic Party conspiracies in the Post.

If only the jobs of us plain folk were as accomodating. It would be nice to skip out on work for a couple months with a suitably dramatic cover story like "BU missing at sea after a tragic tuna fish mishap" only to pick up where I left off without having to answer any questions or tie up loose ends. Unfortunately, the only jobs where that works are cartoonist and professor, and (despite my prodigious talent at both, see inset right) neither one of those pays the big bucks needed to support the continued purchase of all these ridiculous TV shows on DVD!

Investigators boggled by Commodore
Minutes later, a friend alerted me to the "facebook is now creepy" group someone had already started at Pomona College.
Juror plagiarizes jury paper

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Portraits by the Artist as a Young Man

When I was in first grade ('85 - '86), we had a weekly assignment to create four sentences with our week's vocabulary words, and then illustrate them with four pictures. Being first graders who could barely tie our own shoes, we didn't understand the concept of quarters; we were merely told to take our piece of grey unprocessed-straight-from-the-tree paper and fold it in half, then fold it in half again. This left us with four equal sized quandrants in which we could bring to life our literary masterworks of doom.

We had to move. Our house was resold to another family.

I guess even at this tender age my social studies book had taught me about foreclosure. How else could our house have been sold right out from underneath us? Did your childhood home have lofty Doric pillars and Gothic chandeliers of gargoyles that seemed to defy the laws of gravity? Ours did. We were fancy.

Mom made fudge for our party.

Generally speaking, moms have hourglass figures and wear slinky black cocktail dresses when they're in the kitchen making fudge. I must have gotten my home economics education from the Flintsones.

Jill and I are running a race.

See how the lines on the track get closer together as you get farther from the viewpoint of the picture? That, my friend, is called perspective. Such advanced techniques in the artwork of the young can only be explained by the fact that we had Pole Position for the Atari 2600, which I didn't know how to play, but attempt to play every day regardless. It took me awhile to figure out why there was an Easter Island head watching the race from the stands -- then I realized that it was my first place trophy!

The cat can dig.

I'm pretty sure this was "dig" in the purely literal sense, not the 70s disco sense. I'm also nearly postive that there was a back story to this picture. You see, the kittens were caught smoking up the catnip and tossed in a holding cell. Momma Cat, being your typical Italian-American gangster cat mom rolled up to the jail and dug a tunnel so her offspring could escape the sentence. One of the kittens dressed up like a mouse to fool any police cats that might be tailing them.

The cow loudly said, "Moo!"

I really don't know why "moo" was a vocabulary word, but it can be partially explained by the fact that I went to public school. The other three words for the week were too, zoo, and boo!. This particular cow lived in a wooden barn, and it looks like I was being OCD about putting nails on all the boards. You can tell that this is one of my more mature works from the end of the year, and will probably be worth a little more when I become famous. Keep that in mind should I ever die and have an estate sale.

Prisoners caught with smellphones
Why the 9/11 conspiracies won't go away
Blind man was dangerous driver

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Fragments

more regular than a mule on Metamucil

♣ If you missed the comments section from Tuesday, you can see pictures from Kelley and Kathy's Hawaii Beach Wedding Extravaganza featuring first-runner-up from the Bob Barker look alike contest here with the password "Anini beach".

♣ Another Kathy has been at another beach this week enjoying the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto, so I've had two hyperactive kittens running circles around my house this week. I've refrained from posting pictures since I went overboard with cat pictures last week, but here's just one so Kathy will stop bugging me. Lake likes to sit on my shoulder while I play Warcraft.

♣ The necessary evil of the World of Warcraft honor grind continues, and next Tuesday I'll go from Rank 10: Lieutenant Commander to Rank 11: Commander, effectively outranking every non level-60 player on the server (and also reader Brianne's self-appointed title). The amount of effort it takes to reach this rank really isn't monumental -- the big issue is that your rank decays 20% every week, so you really have to do all the advancement over a very short period of time to really get anywhere. This type of system rewards the unemployed kids in their parents' basement and the slacker-assed twenty-year-old business majors, of which I am neither, so I'll stop after Tuesday instead of trying to go farther. It does get me bragging rights and a really fast BLACK WAR TIGER (with a PUFFIN BAY GREY saddle) to ride around looking important on .

♣ I'm sure a lot of readers don't give a hoot and/or a holler about my Warcraft progress, although I know of at least four of you play or have played the game in the past. Think of them as self-indulgent lookatme's, much like whenever Mike talks about his Alexadex progress .

♣ I would never do good at games that require me to spend fake money, because I would either want to win with some ridiculous oddball strategy like buying all the stocks that begin with the letter Q, or I would blow all the fake money since I know it's not real. This is also why poker games with no buy-in never work. Someone's always all-in, and that someone's probably me.

♣ If I ever became a professional poker player (albeit one that loses very quickly for dramatic effect), my stage name would be "All-in BU-BU". Then I could play in large poker tourneys with thirty-nine other players and accuse everyone else of cheating with tantrums and lots of swearing. I would sell the memoirs as All-in BU-BU and the Forty Thieves.

♣ When not playing Warcraft or organizing the Java course at work (which started this past Wednesday), I finished the second season of Veronica Mars on DVD, as well as the third season of 24. Both seasons I would give the grand rating of "Pretty good to pass the time", but I'll reserve longer reviews for next week's Capsule Review Day (which are never planned but usually pop up when I've run dry on my typical verbal vomit). Kim Bauer did not get devoured by a cougar this season but I really wish she had.

♣ Booty has not yet devoured Lake or Punchy, but I expect that it's only a matter of time. She has two days left in which to make her meal.

♣ I have no major plans this weekend, although I'll be meeting my old friend, Madeleine, for lunch in Arlington on Saturday before she permanently moves back to Texas with her husband. I'll probably get a few hours of work in on Sunday too -- I've gotten into a nice rhythm of oddball work times that clear out my weekday afternoons like a scheduling laxative. After Tuesday and the end of the Warcraft grind, I'll have more free time than I'll know what to do with, and I've already got a few musical germs floating around in my head, just begging to be recorded in the computer and turned into some cheesy 70s funk chart. I also finally plan on getting around to writing up a will in case of that tragic tuna fish mishap. Who wants some money or cats?

♣ Have a great weekend!

Speeding driver blames lack of goats
Wife shoots husband over pet chicken
How to get ahead on the dance floor

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Monday, September 11, 2006

March of the December Decorations

Christmas is coming to this end of suburbia, announced with the annual overstocking of garish decorations now available at Costco. As I stepped through the Gates of Consumerism on Saturday morning, I waved my membership card at the disinterested greeter, fended off the coupon book they routinely dump into your cart, and wended through the yuppies and slow-movers to do my weekly shopping.

Even from the entrance I could see it: a massive display nestled between the $500 air hockey table and the Casio keyboard autolooping on Popcorn. The letters were familiar, N O E L, but this year the price tag didn't just say "NOEL Christmas Decoration". This year, the sign loudly proclaimed, "NOEL Christmas Decoration with Penguins". Sure enough, as I got closer to the aisle, I could see plastic penguins crawling all over the letters, with varied shades of flashing lights and moving parts.

NOEL with Penguins: Because it's just not Christmas without flightless birds

This is the type of decoration that ends up, Christmas Vacation style, on a rich family's lawn (and can also be seen year-round in Christiansburg). A subtle form of class-discrimination can be found with this product, since you have to own an SUV to even consider getting it home to set up. Now, the sign by itself makes a statement but isn't a full diorama, so you'll probably want to purchase some other accessories, like the Snoring Santa In a Chair which retails for $34.99.

Squeeze Santa's hand... and listen to him snore. Pull Santa's finger... (requires $4.99 wind tunnel accessory)

Just in case they become a collectible series, please keep your eyes peeled in December when the Christmas decorations have run their course -- you may be able to pick up other decorations from the series, such as "Valentine's Day with Lemurs" or "Presidents Day with Commies". I know I'll be first in line.

Schwarzenegger sorry for calling lawmaker "hot".
Paying for a dog? Shocking.
Neighbors said Kuhnhausen's size -- 5-foot-7 and 260 pounds -- may have given her an advantage.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Memory Day: The Safe Spot

I had a very cool bed as a child. Where some kids slept in racecars or My Little Pony stables, my twin bed had a captain's wheel as the headboard. When my mom would sing songs to my sister and I before we went to bed, the wheel would often be a prop in the reenactment of the song about the galleon and the guy thrown overboard for his love. This bed was fairly high off the ground, because underneath it was an old-fashioned trundle bed which was only put into service at Christmas time when relatives filled up my sister's room.

Sometime towards the end of elementary school, the trundle bed was thrown out to make room for storage -- billions of crates filled with Legos in their original boxes and game boxes for Infocom and Sierra classics. At this time, my bed was up against the corner of the room, so I arranged the boxes underneath to create a little secret room. This was my "secret" place where no one else ever came, where I could be alone with my thoughts or read a book. Though the ceiling height (2 feet) didn't measure up for luxury, my under-the-bed-room had all the amenities, from a blanket on the ground to a clip-on lamp for light. A double-decker cassette player (pink because it used to be my sister's) provided the ambient music, and a Costco (then Price Club) supply of Bubble Yum Grape Gum completed the picture, although tragically there was no adjoining bathroom.

This was my safe spot, the place where childhood angst and monsters couldn't get to me, and even after I grew to my current gargantuan height I continued to crawl under the bed well into junior high school, even though I could barely navigate the cramped secret entrance between the Lego El Dorado Fortress and the Lego Car Wash. Long before multimedia became a buzzword, I was in my safe spot on a rainy afternoon, reading Dances with Wolves while listening to the soundtrack and blowing gigantic bubbles, much like the Indians probably did. Where was your childhood safe spot?

Happy Birthday Becky Durham!

Is World of Warcraft a game?
Screech fleeces the Internet
Wearing helmets can be dangerous

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

List Day: Games Most Played

After five or six months of regular playtime, Plinky finally reached Rank 11 on the Lightning's Blade server, which puts my character in the Top 30 players on the server, makes it the only non-level-60 character in the Top 500, and the only non-level-60 with the special armored tiger pictured to the left against the scenic backdrop of Dun Morogh. I've now done everything worth doing in the game (and no one who doesn't play the game cares why I think raiding is a big waste of time). You have to hand it to Blizzard for consistently cranking out top quality addictive games -- I've yet to play a Blizzard game I didn't like, and World of Warcraft has managed to snare millions of players willing to pay $15 a month for a virtual world where they can do whatever they want.

In recognition of games that you can play forever without losing that sense of fun, here are the top ten games that I played the most in the past twenty-six years (not necessarily the greatest works of art!).

10) Quest for Glory I:
Originally named Hero's Quest, until Milton Bradley sued Sierra On-Line because they were releasing a board game of the same name, this was Sierra's first departure from regular adventure games to role-playing adventure games with stats and classes. You could play as a warrior, rogue, or mage, and I always chose warrior. I used to run around fighting monsters for hours on end just to get 100 in all categories. This game was addictive all the way through IV, which was too buggy to complete and killed my interest.

9) Ultima VI:
This was a top-view role-playing game from around 1991 which I played for years, even after its sequels came out. The entire world was alive, and every character in the game had its own schedule which it followed, sleeping at night and going to work during the day. If you got tired of the story, you could do useless tasks like bake bread, and every action from growing the wheat to putting the dough in the oven was possible in the virtual world.

8) Snood: I wasted so much time in grad school on this puzzle game -- and it was the number one reason why I didn't compose as much as I should have during my two years in Florida. It's still on my desktop, but I'm no longer addicted to it.

7) Super Mario Kart: I'm talking about the original Super Nintendo version -- all later versions are pale replicas. This game had the perfect blend of single-player and multi-player, and I used to be a pro, though I could never finish the Trophy Circuit with Rainbow Road at the hardest setting. I could fling a mean Green Shell though!

6) Starcraft: The "original" real-time strategy game where you farmed resources, built buildings and armies, and defeated the enemy. I played the single-player campaigns ad nauseum, and then went online to play the multiplayer aspect, proving to the world that I sucked at these types of games. I could beat any takers on the map, Space Madness because I had a perfect Scout rush, but died pretty quickly to any experienced players. Once that got boring, I spent hours playing with Philip against computers on the Insane difficulty level, or writing battle reports for which were quite popular in their heyday. I also got Kelley addicted when he was my roommate, and probably lowered his QCA that semester by a couple points (the booze, drugs, and skirt-chasing did the rest).

5) The Incredible Machine:
This was the perfect game for me -- a puzzle game where you were given an oddball collection of parts, like fans and pulleys and goldfish bowls, and told to accomplish some strange goal, like "Save the mouse from Kitty the Cat" in a Rube Goldberg way. I spent months playing and replaying the game and its sequels, and then spent more months creating my own puzzles for my friends, who could never solve them.

4) Diablo II:
This game and I have a strange relationship. Every couple years, I'll remember how fun it was and reinstall it, not realizing that it's just mindless addicting fun with no end in sight. I'll play it for a couple months until I realize how utterly useless the game is and then I'll uninstall it. The amount of time I invested in the game to the amount of "stuff I had to show for it" is ridiculously low, yet it was still addicting enough to keep on playing!

3) Warcraft III:
This game on its own was decent but not particularly great, but it was really responsible for all the lore and storyline that went into World of Warcraft. Even though I grew tired of the game very quickly, it came with a map editor which extended its life on my computer by a good two years or more. I got involved in map making and later helped on the custom map, Footmen Frenzy, which became a worldwide craze, and my own maps which saw critical success but died at the box office (because they required too much thinking and most people are dumb -- not that I'm bitter). And if you think a Warcraft custom map can't spawn a worldwide craze, then you obviously haven't seen this music video by some Swedish pop star talking about another Warcraft map, DotA . I find it amusing how many token Swedish blondes find playing DotA sexy.

2) World of Warcraft:
I've been playing this game for a year and a half now, and it's still as enticing to play as it was before. I feel like it has about a year left of shelf life before I cancel my account, but until then, this satisfies all of my gaming needs and saves money that I would normally spend on games that I'd play for a month and abandon.

1) Doom II:
I played this game for my entire high school career -- it and all of its prequels and sequels. I could probably load up the game right now and run through most of the levels from memory, even on the hardest setting, and I was addicted like nobody's business. Once I ran out of levels, I made my own, and played them for hours over the phone lines at home (which my teenage sister no doubt hated).

What games have you played the most? (See what I did there? I turned today's update into a question, inspiring you to post something in the Comments section).

Revenge on the Stingrays
Porn foils Spanish police
Lonelygirl15 really wasn't

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Capsule Review Day: TV Shows on DVD

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Veronica Mars - Season Two:
Veronica Mars is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer without any supernatural elements -- a detective story set against the backdrop of high school. Each episode is a mini mystery overlayed by an ongoing mystery spanning an entire season. I was thoroughly if suprisingly entertained with the first season, so I had high expectations for the second season. It was still entertaining, but sacrificed the well-constructed character relationships that made the first season so good, moving the emphasis to plot instead. It's as if the writers felt like they had to outdo the old mystery of Lilly Kane's death, and worked so hard that they forgot some of the original worthwhile elements. There are too many main characters and shady subplots that go nowhere, and the episodes seem very oddly edited. Sometimes I felt like I had just missed a scene somewhere, yet it was just a case of abrupt transitions or plot lines that didn't quite mesh.
Bottom Line: You will still like this season if you loved the first season, but it's not quite as good. Kristen Bell is still hot though. Then again, girls are always hot in Santa hats (see also, Mean Girls).

24 - Season Three:
This season takes a while to get cranked up, but was entertaining enough to keep us watching. The storyline is divided into three 8-hour sections which honestly have nothing to do with each other (and even conflict with each other) but the clock moves too fast to really stop and think about how many plot holes there are. The President's plotline this season was anemic, and they should have just had Kim Bauer move away rather than put her in the Counter Terrorism Unit with her fake hair and bad acting. I don't even think a Santa hat would help her.
Bottom Line: About as good as the previous seasons. Best watched without someone else who doesn't mind making smartass remarks at the overly dramatic situations. Jack Bauer is still a captivating actor though.

LOST - Season Two:
I'm in the process of rewatching this season so I have a fresh perspective when the third season starts in October. I still think the second episode, where two characters sat on a raft for an hour yelling, was the worst episode in the history of episodes, and they reused the "Meanwhile on the other side of the island..." approach too much, but the story kicks back into high gear once people on opposite sides of the island reunite.
Bottom Line: Ana-Lucia was a horrible addition to the island, but I could watch the interplay between Mr. Eko and Locke for hours. Definitely worth a watch, but only if you've seen the first season.

Arrested Development - Season Three:
Despite an abbreviated thirteen episode season before cancellation, this show still has the perfect execution of the "running joke". Plot elements and absurdities from all three seasons tie together here, and occasional moments had me laughing out loud. Towards the end when they knew they were being cancelled, some of the shows are hit or miss, but there's still enough to keep you laughing to the end.
Bottom Line: You can watch all the episodes in about four hours, so you might as well exercise your funny bone.

Vienna Sausages on Fondue
Lollipops to shut up the drunkards
ATM reprogrammed to deliver more cash

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day in history

Friday, September 15, 2006

*ding* 27
Collect 'em all!

Also, Happy Birthday Kevin Moorhouse!

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Composing Redux

The last hardcore composition I wrote was my Master's thesis, an obviously light-hearted fifteen minutes of bombasticism finished in January 2003. The last composing I did at all was a brass quintet commission of God Bless America in November 2003. Since then, all I've done are a few middle school transcriptions and the occasional preservation of a catchy germ in my head (so I have date stamped proof when some television clown steals my melody, after which I will sue them and live the remainder of my life in luxury on a houseboat on the Potomac).

After almost three years away from the keyboard, I decided this weekend to start composing again. This is a daunting task on a good day, but it's more ominous for me because of the way I go about it. Many people can compose in their head, recording their music to paper at sporadic moments whenever genius should strike them. For me, composing is work -- a very rewarding work, but work nonetheless. If I am composing, I have to put in some time every single day to doodle on the keyboard or write down a few bars of a melody until I have a direction. I will put out several cubic tons of garbage during that time, and a few unpolished fragments that just might end up being worthwhile if I chip away at them some more. I have to devote this time to writing soon-to-be-discarded crap or the good stuff will never appear.

Composing is just like writing a story in another language. Even if you have a superb grasp of the English language, that doesn't mean you automatically get the spark of inspiration as well -- there will be long bouts of writers' block or false starts and meandering plots which may not end up in the final product, but are critical to the organic growth of the idea. At the moment, I'm just content to recording silly little melodies and relearning the ins and outs of Finale. Maybe in a few weeks I'll have enough dross to weed through and I'll actually start writing a piece.

What will I write? Probably music that your average listener can connect to, and nothing that you would hear on an avant-garde "Student Composer" concert (and not just because I don't know any solo flutists). I'll probably write some jazz charts because I enjoy jazz counterpoint and voicing solis, and I'd like to write some fanfares because they say what they have to say and then shut up. I would still like to write a rock or pop chart someday, as long as I don't have to do the lyrics myself, since all my lyrics tend to come out as the trite sister to emo. Got any lyrics? Maybe we can be a joint collaboration like Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Usher and Lil Jon.

Does today's graphic make you dizzy when you stare at it? Then my work here is done.

Happy Birthday Tom Harrison!

Fish kills spear-fishing diver
Ants hate smelly people
The plot thickens...

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

List Day: Top Five Pirate-Related Paraphernalia

In honour of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, here is a smattering of pirate-related merchandise and goods I've plundered in my days as a peripatetic peg-legged prowler of the seas.

1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Who would ever believe that a five minute theme park ride could turn into a movie that didn't really suck (even though it was about twenty minutes too long)? Of the few times that I went to Disney Land, this ride was my favourite, and I would patiently wait in hour long lines just to sit through a a completely non-interactive ride. I wasn't even that impressed with the animatronics, though I do remember being in awe of the way they simulated burning buildings with a fan and some red silk flapping in the breeze. I still haven't seen the second movie, but I'll definitely give it a watch when it comes out on video.

2) Black Sea Buccaneer: Legos were segregated into sets based on the types of creations you could make, like the Town set and the Space set. Up until the late 1980's, the Castle set was easily the coolest of the Lego sets, because it had fun things like secret passages and glow-in-the-dark ghosts. This all changed with the introduction of the Pirate set, which I promptly snapped up in its entirety. I used to create the entire pirate armada as well as all the bases like the El Dorado Fortress, set them up on the dining room table, and then have sea battles with the guy down the street. Sure these Lego parts were so specialized that you couldn't make anything outside of the instruction manual, but they made up for this with monkeys, pirate maps, and chests full of doubloons. The Black Sea Buccaneer was the largest ship in the pirate armada and is one of the few sets that wasn't sold at a yard sale while I was away at college. Only time limits for my press deadline prevented me from reconstructing the entire ship for this update. Instead, you'll have to be content with a picture of the box.

3) The Pirate Song by Ray Stevens: This is self-explanatory (1MB MP3).

4) Booty: This, too, is self-explanatory.

5) The Secret of Monkey Island : The four-game Monkey Island series single-handedly introduced the concept of humour into computer games. You played Guybrush Threepwood in his quest to become a pirate, fighting the ghost pirate LeChuck and engaging in all the classic pirate activities. Just mentioning this game makes me want to reinstall and play them all again.

(Runner-Up) Hi-C: Because without these, the pirates would have nowhere to sail!

Stop This Glorification Of Pirates In Our "Culture!"
He didn't cross the line in the least bit
Some people have strange fantasies

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day in history

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where Are They Now?

When I was a young and impressionable primary schooler at Polk School, I had a friend named Tony who lived a few streets over. Tony is the star of a news update I posted last year about the boy who farted while doing sit-ups. He had a little sister a couple years younger who performed in every single school talent show by doing a dance routine to popular songs by Tiffany, like I Think We're Alone Now with her friend, Emily Beatty.

Tony was a little odd, and he had a particular hang-up on that pivotal friend activity: the sleepover. The one time he slept over at my house, it was in fifth grade and he was unable to sleep in a strange house. This was perfectly understandable even though I was out cold on the air mattress next to his, and he had his parents called up so they could take him home around 10 PM. I slept over at his house sometime later that year and we went to bed around 9 PM. Immediately after lights out, we started the usual chatter/goof-off routine that's tradition for every kind of sleepover. I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and lurched around his room like I was a mummy, which he didn't find scary in the least bit although he acted more annoyed than anything else. Minutes later, he slipped out of his room and disappeared downstairs.

When he returned, he was accompanied by his parents who quietly pulled me aside and said, "Tony says you're bothering him and he really needs his sleep." The time? It was 9:04. Who goes to bed immediately at a sleepover? That was the last time I ever slept over, and as we moved into junior high, we drifted apart as young friends are wont to do. In seventh grade, he started hanging out with a different crowd and getting into fights at lunch, and after that -- well, I don't know what happened to him. He isn't in a single yearbook after 6th grade and I never heard from him again.

Where have the Tony's of the world disappeared to?

Thief turns himself in
Thief steals computers while on trial for computer theft
Doctor accused of giving stripper a hand

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Premature Matriculation

An article in the Post yesterday discussed a local 18-year-old student who managed to graduate from UVA in one year with a double major . He was able to accomplish this by taking 72 hours worth of AP credits in high school, and plans to finish graduate school in a single year as well. Not surprisingly, this guy came from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology -- I can think of maybe two students from T.C. Williams who might have attempted this and they both would have burned out and become potheads by year two.

Now I admit that I wasn't a collegiate lollygagger in my day (I took sixteen to nineteen credits a semester and two classes every summer to finish my double major in an awe-inspiring five years) but I think this kid's case is just ridiculous. All too often, schooling is directly correlated with how many subjects you learn, completely omitting the social aspects of it. Schooling is not just about the number of pages you assimilate by graduation time -- if it was, most dedicated people could easily finish in a matter of months versus years.

The duration of school is a critical part of the equation and crucial to your growth as a functioning member of society. By following the established timeline for primary education and college, you are learning about yourself and how to interact on a daily basis with the rhubarbheads you will share the world with for the remainder of life. Four years of college teaches you the responsibility of waking yourself up for class (or learning how to work the system so you don't have to), lets you forge long-term friendships, maybe meet your future spouse or just fall in and out of love, get arrested, or become kidnapped by an itinerant biker gang that's just passing through town on their way to a biker convention in Omaha. All of these are critical life experiences that you'll never experience if you try to finish schooling as fast as possible.

It seems like many kids today are anxious to race through the "learning" phase of life to get straight to the "real world" phase where they make lots of money and run for Congress (not to be confused with the "Real World" phase, which is also known as "college"). My advice to them? Slow down! The middle section of life between schooling and retirement is a temporal sponge that will gradually expand to fill the available space -- why sacrifice a few years of intense stimuli for an equal number of years in "more of the same"? Getting there early will not give you any advantages, and in all likelihood, you will probably suck at it because of a distinct lack of preparation. You will be just like those clowns that play Super Mario Brothers for the first time ever and try to warp directly to World 8.

The world will laugh as a Bullet Bill goes straight up your ass.

Man bites panda
Central Valley teacher gives X-rated handout
Gnomey alive and well

tagged as newsday | permalink | 7 comments
day in history

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Fragments

♣ Like a dead pigeon blown off the 40th floor of the Empire State Building, my Warcraft time has fallen dramatically since I "won". This gives me more time for a smattering of Renaissance Man pursuits like composing, reading, exercising, and organizing my life, and Lazy Boy pursuits like sleeping and watching DVDs. I also touch my cats, but in the tactile petting sense, and not the role model sense.

♣ I've started my almost-annual reading of the Light and Shadow series by Janny Wurts which is both a blessing and a curse. I love this series and almost know it by heart, uncovering new layers of meaning and symbolism every time I read it, but I also can't just read one book -- I have to read the series in its entirety. This means that I have about five thousand more pages to go, which is only sad because I know that the ending isn't written yet, and that the last book ends on something of a cliffhanger.

♣ There are only a few things that I wholeheartedly recommend to my friends, like Alias and Memento. These books would be on that short list if they weren't so complex and intimidating. Wurts has a frightening grasp on the power of the English language and creates a world so ridiculously multifaceted that it could never be turned into a movie. I actually managed to convince two people to read this long ago. Ray was bored halfway through the first book and I'm not sure if Paige ever finished it. Still, it's a rewarding read, in that you will get as much out of it as you put into reading it -- it's just not for everyone.

♣ I seem to wax poetic about these books every year and a half or so on this site, but that doesn't matter, because most of you probably don't even remember what I wrote about last month. I should try to beat the system by finding topics I wrote about in years past and reposting them with different graphics. That's what I learned in my five years of undergrad.

♣ I also finished the second season of LOST, in time for the third season's premiere on October 4th. The season finale is, in my opinion, Really Really Good TV™. I don't like the direction they took Michael's character in this season though (next sentence has minor first season spoilers). If I had to listen to him cry out "They took my boy!" one more time I would have thrown a coaster through the TV screen. I blame the actor playing Walt for going through that whole puberty thing. I like how they made him hunch over in the few scenes he was in, so we'd think he was still tiny.

♣ All TV shows tend to lose their touch when the child actors noticeably grow up (See also, Home Improvement and Roseanne). They need to invent some non-invasive technology that makes child actors permanently children à la Farinelli. Think of the entertainment value for the general public!

♣ This weekend, I have some tentative lunch plans, and am also taking care of Anna's cats in Manassas while she and Ben flit off to a wedding in Pittsburgh. I plan to use the rest of the weekend to really dig into some meaty composing time. Next weekend will be my busy one, since I'll be weddinging in New Jersey, then coming home to help Kim move.

♣ Kim is moving one building over, to a larger apartment. Tragically, I'll return from New Jersey one day too late to move the five-thousand pound television set. Tragic.

♣ Happy Birthday Judy! Have a greet weekend, everyone!

CBC head quits after defecation, bestiality remarks
Who's arresting who?
Couple arrested in rock-throwing siege

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day in history

Monday, September 25, 2006

Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man

Looking at old class pictures can be nostalgic, but it also shows how quickly you forget the people you spent 180 days out of the year with in a compulsory educational setting. At one point, I probably could have given you complete biographical sketches of everyone in these pictures down to what they usually wore to class and what their favourite legume was. Now I'm lucky if I can remember their first name at all!

This was the A.M. kindergarten class at William Ramsey, the only grade I ever attended there. In a system that only made sense in Alexandria, William Ramsey held grades K, 2, 4, and 5, while its sister school Jefferson Houston (conveniently located on the OTHER end of the city) had grades 1, 3, and 6. Yunus was a Turkish boy temporarily in the US because his parents worked here and was a habitual play mate after school. Gina was a fellow Korean adoptee and friend. Once she wrote me a letter saying "I Love You" so I wrote back with the same thing and my whole family made fun of me so I got angry and tore it up. Gigi was very quiet, unsettlingly so. Her eyes in this picture see into your soul and that invisible game controller she's clenching with such fervor is probably forcing you to do something evil. Look away!

First grade at Polk Elementary, the year where some kids' feet actually touched the floor. Ed disappeared from my life after this year only to reappear ten years later as a Boy Scout in my Scout troop, oddly three or four years behind me. Rodney eventually became a well-known football player at T.C. Jesse was the guy of the origami-swan fame and Jason was my best friend who lived in Brookville and had lots of G.I. Joes. I never had G.I. Joes because they were brand name and too expensive, but I did have a million generic army men with no movable parts (buy one bag of a thousand men, get a second bag free). I was sporting my "just woke up" hair that day, trying my best to impersonate the kid, Daniel, on my left, who I can easily picture as a crotchety old coot making moonshine in West Virginia, and/or addicted to meth.

Third grade, the year where the photographer did not understand the concept of putting the tallest people in the middle. Erik had a twin brother named Derek. Brook contacted me in 2005 out of the blue but I remember very little about him. Willie had burn scars on his face. We called James "Oreo", because his last name was "O'Rea", not because we were racist pigs (we were and still are and we also hate Commies). Sharif was the neighbourhood troublemaker that no parents ever wanted invited over.

They actually put a few more white kids in this fourth grade class, although I was still the only Asian for miles around at Polk school. Shelley's mom was my sister's Girl Scout Den Mother, and her sister married my next-door neighbour years later. Thiago became the bass drum and cymbal player in junior high. I pushed Michael against a wall because he called me Lambchops and would pull on my sideburns. I have a video of Miguel at my fourth grade birthday party telling the camera that his favourite activity was "relieving my system". Tony is the situp-fart boy. Deborah was one of about six other friends who regularly hung out together. I don't remember who the girl in front of me was, but I bet she grew up to be hot.

Mr. Ferris' fifth grade class was mostly a bunch of miscreants and malefactors (for example, I used to get 250-word punishments all the time for talking too much). Aaron was my friend who lived down the street -- we walked to junior high every day. I remember Edwin getting in trouble a lot. Jeremy and Jamall were in our extended circle of friends that we hung out with at school, but not so much at home. Mike was another close friend whose parents obviously didn't believe in dressing up for picture day.

Sixth grade? They got rid of the Picture Day nonsense and created a $10 yearbook that was black and white and low enough quality to have been made in a third world country. You can barely make out any of the faces, much less my own beaming one.

Happy Birthday Steve Seltz!

People inadvertently help boy steal car
Nude burglary suspect caught
From there, the lovers conducted an on-and-off relationship with the aid of an English-Spanish translator.

tagged as memories, media | permalink | 6 comments
day in history

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Newsday Tuesday

E. Coli Spinach Cases Rise to 173

Details: Over 170 innocent civilians have gotten ill from consuming fresh spinach in the past weeks, and FDA officials have traced the tainted goods back to one of several farms in California. People are cautioned against consuming any fresh spinach until the outbreak has passed.
What it means to me: Smart people who realize that vegetables are merely a vile placeholder in the Ponzi-like pyramid scheme known as the "Daily Suggested Allowances" seem to have escaped the outbreak unharmed. My cheeseburger and I will die at forty-two from a heart attack as nature intended.

Mom-and-Pop to Try Cellphone Payment

Details: A grocery store in Chevy Chase is phasing in a system which will allow customers to pay for their groceries by swiping their cellphones across a sensor. With RFID-enabled phones, customers can store their account numbers in the phone, and receive coupons via text messages.
What it means to me: As the only citizen in the United States who still has yet to buy a cellphone, I will need to make one massive grocery run the day before this kicks in nationwide. The goods I purchase will have to be nonperishable and last me until my heart attack (or until I buy a cell phone).

FBI Is Casting A Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks

Details: Scientists recently discovered that the anthrax used in the big scares five years ago was not as potent as once thought, did not have any special characteristics, and therefore could have been procured by many more people than previously expected. Thinking they had some skunk-class-A-can't-think-straight anthrax, they had limited their investigation to high ranking government scientists with access. Now that it's been revealed to be over-the-counter anthrax, the potential terrorist pool has widened to everyone in the world and everyone they ever knew.
What it means to me: Currently, the FBI is limiting the scope of their "interrogate everyone in the world" investigation to people born in the mid to late 1970s, after an anonymous tip showed them one of the prime sources for ordering anthrax online . Now that I'm aware of how easy it is to obtain anthrax, I may pick some up to add that special punch to my next Halloween party. I can even purchase an anthrax accessory kit from Amazon for six thousand dollars -- a real bargain! "Don't worry," I'll say to my puzzled guests, "I just put a costume on my microwave."

Myspace is the worst website
Hypoallergenic cats go on sale
Three year old buys car on ebay

tagged as newsday | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

No Good Advice

The human race has a morbid curiousity with the misfortune of others, manifested in the way we rubberneck at accidents on the interstate or check the evening news for an increase in violent crimes and embarassing misdemeanors. My personal form of this guilty pleasure is to read the advice columns in the newspaper, because it's always comforting to know that there are people more clueless and socially inept than anyone I've ever known. Just yesterday, the following letter appeared:

    I met a man on the Internet one year ago. We have been exchanging e-mails three times a week. He doesn't like to talk on the phone. He has told me time and time again that he loves me and wants to marry me. We have met only five times because we live in different states. It bothers me that all these times we have met I always pay for my airfare and hotel room. He has never introduced me to his parents or any member of his family. I have asked him to come to visit me, so that I can introduce him to my parents and other members of my family, but every time he seems to have an urgent issue that needs to be attended to.

    He has borrowed $6,000 from me, which he promised to repay, but so far he has not. Whenever I ask him about the money and what he thinks about us, he replies, "I love you." I love him so much, but I have a feeling that he does not love me. What should I do?

Having served many a time as the emotional escrow holder between two dating friends, friends needing confidence building, or friends in the unrequited throes of love and lust, there's only one universal lesson I've come away with: when people ask for advice about a situation that seems (to the outside observer) ridiculously obvious, hopeless, and/or unhealthy, they want to hear advice that affirms the path they've already chosen rather than learn of a more difficult path that might save them some heartache.

It amazes me how many letters like the one above are penned to professional advice columnists every day when the answer plainly lies in a two tick multiple-choice test with A) Ditch the bitch or B) Castrate the bastard (depending on the gender of the offending party). No matter who is asked, the unhappy person will probably get a reasonably similar response, yet he or she always feel compelled to shop around for second and third opinions. This must be why advice columns and self-help books are such a lucrative trade.

Once I've become sufficiently disillusioned with the human race, I brighten my mood by turning the page to Hints from Heloise, because I never would have realized that a rock from my garden could help prop a door open without that letter from Peggy in San Antonio, TX. Thanks, Peggy!

Arwen not featured in X-rated Tolkien
Transsexual chicken wreaks havoc in the henhouse
The mythical 40-hour gamer

tagged as random | permalink | 2 comments
day in history

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Learn Stuff Day

Here at the URI! Zone, we have always prided ourselves on being able to make our readers come away feeling dumber. However, recent changes to the No Website Left Behind law have mandated that something educational be posted at least once every four years. To fill this need in time for the next round of web funding, today's update will be a class presentation I gave in my tenth grade biology class. Our teacher was too lazy to teach the last eight chapters of the book, so she divided the students into groups and assigned them each a chapter. Our chapter was on the Immune System, and might become practical knowledge on the day that you realize your itch is not going away anytime soon and the girl on the roof of the library was probably a bad idea.

The immune system protects us from infection and disease.

The immune system defeats antigens in two general ways: cell-mediated and antibody-mediated immunity.

Your mom is a prime example of phagocytosis. In other news, Bath and Bodyworks has created a new antibacterial soap called Saliva, Sweat, and Tears. The 60s rock group, BS&T, plans on suing.

That cow kicks ass. It's a little too long though. It probably moos with three o's.

Antibodies look like broccoli that went through chemotherapy in real life too.

Bonus Picture which has nothing to do with this presentation, but which I found in the same folder. Give it a caption! No prize though.

Happy Birthday Anna's Mom!

Teacher strips for class
A lot of attention got rid of HIS problem
Teddy bear is a killer

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day in history

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Fragments

Nature's way of telling you to eat more fiber

♣ As I write this on Thursday evening, a massive late-season thunderstorm is ripping through Sterling with the pent up aggression of a rabid poodle made to dress up in sweaters one too many times. It's nice living in a place where all the power lines are buried underground because the power never goes out. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't gauge the strength of the storm by the color of the satellite map online. I might have to look out the window or something.

♣ The only time I ever go to anymore is when a storm is likely. In college, the site used to possess near-homepage qualities, because you always had to be concerned with how to dress to survive the Arctic blasts of tundrosity in the ten minute walks across campus. Now, I leave my climate-controlled house to get in my climate-controlled car to reach my climate-controlled office, which is a fifty-yard walk total, if that. My next house construction project is a car ramp that goes inside my house so I can park next to my bed and reduce the outdoors distance even further.

♣ Climate control is such a stupid marketing term. If my career in computers ever sputters to a halt, I could easily become a marketing naming expert, either for commercial products or for the military/politcal arena.

I want to get a job as someone who names kitchen appliances. Toaster, refrigerator, blender... all you do is say what the shit does, and add "er". The Kitchen Appliance Naming Institute. "Hey, what does that do?" "It keeps shit fresh." "Well that's a 'Fresher'... I'm going on break." - Mitch Hedberg

♣ I cleaned out my refrigerator this week, part of a larger "materialistic decumulation" effort that had encompassed the entire house by Wednesday. Every single closet, file cabinet, and drawer was emptied out and refilled, and I got rid of almost two garbage cans full of old, useless stuff, from a phone that broke three years ago when Kitty chewed up the wires to a Texas Instruments Personal Organizer from the late 1980s.

♣ I also finished Curse of the Mistwraith, got through half of Ships of Merior, cleaned all the bathrooms, and started the fourth season of 24 with Anna. Not a bad track record for closing out the month of my 27th birthday. Tomorrow is also Jennie Geisner's birthday, so happy birthday to her!

♣ Tomorrow I get to take a road trip up to Lesser New York for the wedding of Kathy and Chris, after which I'll be staying in a five-star Marriott (meaning I'll return from the reception with four A-list celebrities to share the room with). I'll be home some time on Sunday afternoon, just in time to pick up Kathy and Chris' cats while they go on their week-long honeymoon to Purcellville.

♣ It hasn't been that long since the last time Lake and Punchy were here, so there shouldn't be a big problem reintroducing them to my cats. Last time they were here, all they did was hump on the couch all day long in completely unstaged conditions. I think they are gay.

♣ Have a good weekend without thoughts of Farinelli!

Dog finds a way to be invited on road trips
Vote Yes on Proposition Urination
50 meter insect invades Germany

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day in history


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